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Title:
MICROWAVE LYOPHILIZATION DEVICE AND METHOD
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/094523
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A microwave lyophilization device and method are provided for lyophilizing products. The device includes: a processing chamber configured to receive an item for lyophilization; a microwave generator configured to generate microwave energy within the processing chamber; an input panel configured to receive user input relating to the item; a plurality of sensors to generate sensor data for lyophilization of the item within the processing chamber; and a controller to control the microwave generator and to set or adjust processing parameters for lyophilization of the item based on the user input and the sensor data.

Inventors:
STEELE NICHOLAS (CA)
Application Number:
PCT/CA2017/051405
Publication Date:
May 31, 2018
Filing Date:
November 23, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
LYOFRESH TECH INC (CA)
International Classes:
A23L3/54; A23L3/40; A23L3/44; F26B3/347; F26B5/06; F26B7/00; F26B25/22
Foreign References:
US20020174562A12002-11-28
CN102200373A2011-09-28
Other References:
DUAN ET AL.: "Trends in Microwave-Assisted Freeze Drying of Foods", DRYING TECHNOLOGY, vol. 28, 2010, pages 444 - 453, XP001555488, ISSN: 0737-3937, DOI: doi:10.1080/07373931003609666
PUSCHNER GMBH & CO: "Microwave freeze drying of fruits & vegetables", WHITE PAPER, 2012, XP055605080, Retrieved from the Internet [retrieved on 20180118]
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NORTON ROSE FULBRIGHT CANADA LLP (Suite 2500Montreal, Qu├ębec H3B 1R1, CA)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A microwave lyophilization device comprising: a processing chamber configured to receive an item for lyophilization; a microwave generator configured to generate microwave energy within the processing chamber; an input panel configured to receive user input relating to the item; a plurality of sensors to generate sensor data for lyophilization of the item within the processing chamber; and a controller to control the microwave generator and to set or adjust processing parameters for lyophilization of the item based on the user input and the sensor data.

2. The device of claim 1 , wherein the user input comprises at least one of: size, weight, type and material of the item.

3. The device of claim 1 , wherein the controller is configured to set or adjust the processing parameters according to a lyophilization profile from a database of lyophilization profiles, the lyophilization profile being selected based on the user input or the sensor data.

4. The device of claim 3, wherein each lyophilization profile in the database comprises at least a drying profile, the drying profile comprising an initial set of processing parameters.

5. The device of claim 4, wherein the controller is configured to further set or adjust the processing parameters based on an updated set of processing parameters, wherein the updated set of processing parameters are derived from the initial set of processing parameters based on a control model.

6. The device of claim 1 , wherein the sensors include one or more sensors selected from the group of weight, temperature, photoelectric, pressure, and reflected power.

7. The device of claim 1 , wherein the processing parameters comprise one or more of: time, temperature, pressure, vacuum level and microwave energy.

8. The device of claim 1 , further comprising a drum internal to the processing chamber for receiving the item.

9. The device of claim 8, wherein the drum is a rotating drum, wherein the rotating drum is configured to be triggered for rotation by the controller.

10. The device of claim 8, wherein the drum is shaped based on the processing chamber to maximize internal capacity.

11. The device of claim 1 , wherein the processing chamber has an arc-inhibiting surface configured to reduce or eliminate corona discharge.

12. The device of claim 5, wherein the control model determines a heat transfer into a frozen region of the item based on variables including forward power, reflected power, frequency of radio frequency (RF) signal, an initial temperature, and an area occupied by the item.

13. A computer-processor implemented method for lyophilizing an item using a microwave lyophilization device, the method comprising: detecting an item within a processing chamber of the microwave lyophilization device; receiving electronic user input relating to the item from an input panel on the microwave lyophilization device; receiving sensor data for lyophilization of the item from a plurality of sensors; setting processing parameters for lyophilization of the item based on the user input or the sensor data; and activating a microwave generator for generating microwave energy to lyophilize the item during a microwave cycle.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein the user input comprises at least one of: size, weight, type and material of the item.

15. The method of claim 13, further comprising: selecting a lyophilization profile based on the user input or the sensor data from a database of lyophilization profiles; and setting or adjusting the processing parameters according to the selected lyophilization profile.

16. The method of claim 14, wherein each lyophilization profile in the database comprises at least a drying profile, the drying profile comprising an initial set of processing parameters.

17. The method of claim 16, further comprising: deriving an updated set of processing parameters from the initial set of processing parameters based on a control model; and setting or adjusting the processing parameters based on the updated set of processing parameters.

18. The method of claim 16, wherein each lyophilization profile is based on a type or material of the item and further comprises an initial moisture level and a density level.

19. The method of claim 13, wherein the sensors include one or more sensors selected from the group of weight, temperature, photoelectric, pressure, and reflected power.

20. The method of claim 13, wherein the processing parameters comprise one or more of: time, temperature, pressure, vacuum level and microwave energy.

21. The method of claim 13, comprising checking any one of: water level, temperature level and vacuum level prior to activating the microwave generator.

22. The method of claim 13, comprising energizing a drum placed inside the processing chamber, the drum being configured to receiving the item for lyophilization.

23. The method of claim 22, wherein the drum is energized for rotation during lyophilization.

24. The method of claim 17, comprising updating the dry profile in the lyophilization profile in the database based on the control model.

25. The method of claim 13, comprising continuously checking for abnormal conditions during the microwave cycle.

26. The method of claim 25, wherein the abnormal conditions comprises at least one of: abnormal microwave condition, abnormal pressure condition and abnormal temperature condition.

27. The method of claim 17, wherein the control model determines a heat transfer into a frozen region of the item based on variables including forward power, reflected power, frequency of radio frequency (RF) signal, an initial temperature, and an area occupied by the item.

Description:
MICROWAVE LYOPHILIZATION DEVICE AND METHOD

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims priority to United States Provisional Patent Application No. 62/426,252 filed on November 24, 2016, which is herein incorporated by reference in entirety.

FIELD

[0002] The present disclosure generally relate to the field of lyophilisation or "freeze drying", and more particularly to lyophilisation of items using microwave.

INTRODUCTION

[0003] Industrial lyophilisation devices use microwave technology for food preservations. Innovative, affordable, portable and user-friendly lyophilisation devices that use microwave technology while mitigating the risk of corona discharge may be desirable in the market.

SUMMARY

[0004] In accordance with an aspect, there is provided a microwave lyophilization device with features as described herein.

[0005] In accordance with an aspect, a microwave lyophilization device is provided. The device may include: a processing chamber configured to receive an item for lyophilization; a microwave generator configured to generate microwave energy within the processing chamber; an input panel configured to receive user input relating to the item; a plurality of sensors to generate sensor data for lyophilization of the item within the processing chamber; and a controller to control the microwave generator and to set or adjust processing parameters for lyophilization of the item based on the user input and the sensor data.

[0006] In some embodiments, the user input comprises at least one of: size, weight, type and material of the item. [0007] In some embodiments, the item may be a food item. [0008] In some embodiments, the controller is configured to set or adjust the processing parameters according to a lyophilization profile from a database of lyophilization profiles, the lyophilization profile being selected based on the user input or the sensor data.

[0009] In some embodiments, each lyophilization profile in the database comprises at least a drying profile, the drying profile comprising an initial set of processing parameters.

[0010] In some embodiments, the controller is configured to further set or adjust the processing parameters based on an updated set of processing parameters, wherein the updated set of processing parameters are derived from the initial set of processing parameters based on a control model. [0011] In some embodiments, the control model determines a heat transfer into a frozen region of the item based on variables including forward power, reflected power, frequency of radio frequency (RF) signal, an initial temperature, and an area occupied by the item.

[0012] In some embodiments, the sensors include one or more sensors selected from the group of weight, temperature, photoelectric, pressure, and reflected power. [0013] In some embodiments, the processing parameters comprise one or more of: time, temperature, pressure, vacuum level and microwave energy.

[0014] In some embodiments, there is a drum internal to the processing chamber for receiving the item.

[0015] In some embodiments, the drum is a rotating drum. [0016] In some embodiments, the rotating drum is configured to be triggered for rotation by the controller.

[0017] In some embodiments, the drum is shaped based on the processing chamber to maximize internal capacity.

[0018] In some embodiments, the processing chamber has an arc-inhibiting surface configured to reduce or eliminate corona discharge. [0019] In accordance with another aspect, there is provided a computer-processor implemented method for lyophilizing an item using a microwave lyophilization device, the method may include: detecting an item within a processing chamber of the microwave lyophilization device; receiving electronic user input relating to the item from an input panel on the microwave lyophilization device; receiving sensor data for lyophilization of the item from a plurality of sensors; setting processing parameters for lyophilization of the item based on the user input or the sensor data; and activating a microwave generator for generating microwave energy to lyophilize the item during a microwave cycle.

[0020] In some embodiments, the user input comprises at least one of: size, weight, type and material of the item.

[0021] In some embodiments, the method may further include: selecting a lyophilization profile based on the user input or the sensor data from a database of lyophilization profiles; and setting or adjusting the processing parameters according to the selected lyophilization profile. [0022] In some embodiments, each lyophilization profile in the database comprises at least a drying profile, the drying profile comprising an initial set of processing parameters.

[0023] In some embodiments, the method may further include: deriving an updated set of processing parameters from the initial set of processing parameters based on a control model; and setting or adjusting the processing parameters based on the updated set of processing parameters.

[0024] In some embodiments, each lyophilization profile is based on a type or material of the item and further comprises an initial moisture level and a density level.

[0025] In some embodiments, the sensors include one or more sensors selected from the group of weight, temperature, photoelectric, pressure, and reflected power. [0026] In some embodiments, the processing parameters comprise one or more of: time, temperature, pressure, vacuum level and microwave energy.

[0027] In some embodiments, the method may further include: checking any one of: water level, temperature level and vacuum level prior to activating the microwave generator. [0028] In some embodiments, the method may further include: energizing a drum placed inside the processing chamber, the drum being configured to receiving the item for lyophilization.

[0029] In some embodiments, the drum is energized for rotation during lyophilization. [0030] In some embodiments, the method may further include: updating the dry profile in the lyophilization profile in the database based on the control model.

[0031] In some embodiments, the method may further include: continuously checking for abnormal conditions during the microwave cycle.

[0032] In some embodiments, the abnormal conditions comprises at least one of: abnormal microwave condition, abnormal pressure condition and abnormal temperature condition.

[0033] In various further aspects, the disclosure provides corresponding systems and devices, and logic structures such as machine-executable coded instruction sets for implementing such systems, devices, and methods. [0034] In this respect, before explaining at least one embodiment in detail, it is to be understood that the embodiments are not limited in application to the details of construction and to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. [0035] Many further features and combinations thereof concerning embodiments described herein will appear to those skilled in the art following a reading of the instant disclosure.

DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

[0036] In the figures, embodiments are illustrated by way of example. It is to be expressly understood that the description and figures are only for the purpose of illustration and as an aid to understanding. [0037] Embodiments will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the attached figures, wherein in the figures:

[0038] FIG. 1 is a partial sectional view of a microwave lyophilization system according to an example embodiment. [0039] FIG. 2 is a partial bottom plan view of the microwave lyophilization system according to some embodiments.

[0040] FIG. 3 is a high level flowchart of the microwave lyophilization system according to some embodiments.

[0041] FIG. 4A is a flowchart of an example initialization process of the high level flowchart depicted in FIG. 3.

[0042] FIG. 4B is a flow chart of another example initialization process.

[0043] FIG. 5A is a flowchart of an example lyophilization and monitoring process for the flowchart depicted in FIG. 3.

[0044] FIG. 5B is a flowchart of another example lyophilization and monitoring process. [0045] FIG. 6A is a flowchart of an example "shut down" process of the high level flowchart depicted in FIG. 3.

[0046] FIG. 6B is a flowchart of another example "shut down" process.

[0047] FIG. 7 is a schematic diagram illustrating the communication and interaction of various sensors and process of the microwave lyophilization system according to some embodiments.

[0048] FIG. 8 is an example schematic block diagram illustrating an example controller device of the microwave lyophilization system according to some embodiments.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0049] Embodiments of methods, systems, and apparatus are described through reference to the drawings. [0050] The following discussion provides many example embodiments of the inventive subject matter. Although each embodiment represents a single combination of inventive elements, the inventive subject matter is considered to include all possible combinations of the disclosed elements. Thus if one embodiment comprises elements A, B, and C, and a second embodiment comprises elements B and D, then the inventive subject matter is also considered to include other remaining combinations of A, B, C, or D, even if not explicitly disclosed.

[0051] Innovative, affordable, portable and user-friendly lyophilisation devices that use microwave technology while mitigating the risk of corona discharge may be desirable in the market. Such devices, for example, may increase batch size while reducing processing time. In some embodiment, such devices may be scaled down from an industrial scale and made into a home appliance as an alternative to other home food preservations methods.

[0052] Food products or other types of items produced through lyophilization may be considered shelf stable and may remain edible for many years at room temperature. An advantage of sublimation is that the food product retains its shape, colour, and nutrients.

[0053] There may be various technical challenges in providing such a device, such as ensuring a uniform microwave field and consequently a uniform temperature distribution in the drying material; reducing the power consumption and process time to a level reasonable for various applications including as an in-home appliance; overheating and food product deterioration; and, but not limited to, eliminating corona or plasma discharge.

[0054] The microwave lyophilization device may include or be connected to a controller device configured to set and adjust processing parameters for lyophilizing one or more items placed within the processing chamber of a microwave lyophilization device. The controller device may be connected to various sensors and an input panel for receiving input data and processing the input data to set and adjust the processing parameters. In some embodiments, the controller device may configure and control various parameters such as microwave energy, cycle time, temperature, pressure and vacuum level.

[0055] The microwave lyophilization device may combine microwave generators, compressors, and other systems in order to remove moisture from food products. This may be accomplished by establishing atmospheric conditions inside the chamber containing the food product to be freeze dried. By controlling these atmospheric conditions, which includes pressure, temperature, and humidity, moisture can be removed from food products through sublimation, i.e. the change in phase from ice within the food product directly to water vapour without first transitioning through a liquid water phase. Elsewhere in the system, a condenser may condense the gaseous water vapour into liquid water, thereby maintaining the humidity of the system at a target level.

[0056] In some embodiments, the food product may be comprised of small particles. This may permit the increase of batch size and uniform distribution of microwave energy to the particles within the chamber. A drum may be used to agitate the contents to be freeze dried, further ensuring uniform distribution of microwave energy. The contents to be freeze dried may be in small particles or whole. The agitation by the drum can ensure a uniform distribution of microwave energy. The drum also maximizes the useable area inside the chamber, increasing batch size compared to tray configurations.

[0057] The lyophilization process may further require a method of adding energy to the processed material to facilitate the phase change. In some embodiments, microwave energy is used to add energy to the material. In some embodiments, the microwaves comprise electromagnetic waves with wavelengths. The range for food may be 2.4 - 2.5 GH. This represents an advantage over traditional methods which typically employ heat plates and trays. In these methods, energy is transferred to the food product through conduction heating which is uneven and requires more energy to operate. Batch times using such apparatus may be multiple days, and consequently, freeze drying under these conditions makes the process viable only under large industrial scales and for high value products.

[0058] FIG. 1 is a sectional schematic diagram of a microwave lyophilization device 100/200. The microwave lyophilization device 100/200 includes a processing chamber 119 where the freeze drying process occurs. The chamber 119/219 includes a door 106/206. In some embodiments, the door 106/206 attaches to the chamber forming an opening, the opening comprising the full width of the chamber so that drums may be easily loaded. In the preferred embodiment, the chamber 119/219 is sealed to door 106/206 with gaskets 107/207 or other pressure seal devices to accommodate vacuum and pressure conditions. In the preferred embodiment, the chamber 119/219 is capable of withstanding pressures at least as low as 60-100 Pa. [0059] In some embodiments, microwave lyophilization device 100/200 may include an input panel 126/226 for receiving user input relating to an item or a food product placed within the processing chamber 119/219. The user input may include information such as batch size, weight, type of the item, and/or material of the item. It is to be understood that the phrase "item" here may include food products or other types of items.

[0060] The microwave lyophilization device 100/200 may contain various sensors 114/214, 105/205. In some embodiments, weight sensors 114/214 may be configured to measure and/or monitor batch weight. In some embodiments, sensors 105/205 may be configured to detect and determine one or more conditions of the processing chamber 119/219, such as forward and reflected power, current, voltage, pressure, vacuum level, thermal infrared (IR) level, photoelectric level, humidity level and temperature within a processing chamber. In some embodiments, detection and/or determination of a pressure level by a sensor 105 may be used to determine a vacuum level within the processing chamber 119.

[0061] In some embodiments, forward power is a metric to determine energy entering the chamber relative to the energy level being generated at the radio frequency (RF) power source.

[0062] In some embodiments, reflected power is a metric of how much energy is being lost in the chamber due to the absorption of energy by the water molecules as a percentage of total energy put into the chamber. [0063] In some embodiments, sensors 105/205 may also be able to detect a humidity level and/or a water level within the processing chamber (or within a drum).

[0064] In some embodiments, the microwave lyophilization device 100/200 contains a rotating drum 102/202. The drum may be coupled to a drum shaft 124 at the end of the chamber 119/219 opposite the door 106/206. A depression 123/223 in the drum 102/202 may accommodate and couple to the drum shaft 124 in order that driving the drum shaft 124 causes the drum 102/202 to rotate. The drum shaft 124 may be coupled to motor 108/208, which causes the drum shaft 124 to rotate, when engaged.

[0065] In some embodiments, the drum 102/202 may contain a cap 122 at its open end, i.e. the end nearer the door 106/206. In some embodiments, the drum 102/202 may be supported by rounded supports 110/210 which both support the drum and facilitate removal/insertion of the drum 1022/202 from/into chamber 119/219.

[0066] In some embodiments, the chamber 119/219 is cylindrical to withstand greater pressure differentials at work when the chamber 119/219 is depressurized to near vacuum conditions. In some embodiments, the chamber 119/219 may take the form of other geometries, including but not limited to a rectangular prism.

[0067] In some embodiments, the door 106/206 contains a shielding material that prevents microwaves from escaping from the chamber 119/219. There are materials for preventing microwave leakage. This may include the use of metal "meshes" in addition to solid metal sheets. In some embodiments, the rate of rotation of the drum corresponds to the particular food item in order to ensure uniform microwave heating.

[0068] In some embodiments, the chamber 119/219 has an arc-inhibiting surface in order to reduce or eliminate corona discharge. Generally, metallic surfaces, fasteners (including but not limited to bolts and rivets) and material with sharp edges within the chamber or unshielded protrusions may not suitable, as they are conducive to corona discharges. In some embodiments, materials in the chamber 119/219 may be shielded from the microwaves in order to achieve a similar result.

[0069] In some embodiments, the drum 102/202 is comprised of materials inert to microwave energy, including but not limited to polypropylene. The drum 102/202 may further contain venting holes at its front and end in order to allow water vapour to escape and migrate to the condenser 116/216. In some embodiments, the interior of the drum 102/202 is configured to contain shelves which radiate from the centre of the drum 102/202, similar to the spokes of the wheel. In some embodiments, the interior of the drum 102/202 may take the form of other geometries specifically designed to facilitate lyophilization of the particular food item.

[0070] In some embodiments, the condenser 116/216 and vacuum pump 113/213 in conjunction with the refrigeration unit 111/211 are used to control the pressure, temperature, and humidity inside the chamber 119/219. The purpose of this control is to create conditions that facilitate sublimation, i.e. the transition of solid-state water (i.e. ice) to gaseous-state water (i.e. vapour). Sublimation may occur, for example, when the temperature of the system is below the freezing point of water (i.e. 0 degrees Celsius) and the vapour pressure of water in the atmosphere is reduced until water molecules escape in the form of water vapour. This is a pressure less than normal atmospheric pressures. At the same time, the reverse process is occurring in a process called "deposition". A net loss of water from the food products will result when the rate of sublimation exceeds the rate of deposition. As the temperature of the chamber 119/219 is decreased, the requisite pressure inside the chamber below which net sublimation occurs also decreases. In some embodiments, the temperature may range from - 40 degrees Celsius to above 22 degrees Celsius.

[0071] A heating element 117 may be used in some embodiments to melt ice that collects inside the condenser 116/216 at the completion of the processing cycle.

[0072] In some embodiments, a condenser 1162/16 is used to remove water from the system. A fan 120 can be used to circulate water vapour or air through the condenser 116/216. If the chamber is under vacuum conditions, there may be no air to circulate and only water vapour, for example. The fan can be used initially to speed up the freezing process. By altering the combination of pressure and temperature of the gas as it passes through the condenser 116/216, the phase of the water may change from gas to liquid or solid. Any uncondensed air may then circulate back to the chamber 119/219. There can be very little air at this point, so there may be no point to have a fan running in some embodiments as it might not be able to circulate water vapour. A screening shield 115 may be used, in some embodiments, to shield the condenser 116/216 from microwaves generated by the microwave generators 109/209.

[0073] In some embodiments, a sensor may be coupled to the condenser 116/216 to detect presence of water. The sensor may do so through detecting a humidity level, for example. In other embodiments, the sensor may be a device that detects water when two contacts (e.g. metal strips) is bridged and/or an electrical circuit completed by electrical conductivity of water.

[0074] In some embodiments, the microwave generators 109/209 are isolated from the chamber 119/219 by windows 121. The windows may be comprised of materials which permit microwaves to penetrate the windows 121. The windows 121 may be sealed to the chamber 119/219 in order to maintain the near vacuum pressure. The microwave generators 109/209 may contain or be connected to forward and reflected power, current, voltage, pressure, vacuum level, thermal infrared (IR) level, photoelectric level, and temperature sensors 105/ 205 in order to reduce the occurrence of corona discharge.

[0075] In some embodiments, a refrigeration unit 111/211 may reduce the temperature of the cooling coils 104/204. This reduces the temperature of the chamber to sub-freezing temperatures, i.e. below 0 degrees Celsius.

[0076] In some embodiments, a fan 120 may be used to lower the chamber 119/219 temperature. In some embodiments, the fan 120 may be used to freeze the food product to be lyophilized. In some embodiments, this may accelerate the lowering of the chamber temperature and freezing the food by circulating the air or gases within the chamber. In some embodiments, a vacuum pump 113/213 is connected to the condenser 116/216 and chamber 119/219 using isolation valves 112. In some embodiments, the microwave lyophilization device 100/200 is housed within a chassis 127. The chassis 127 may further be mounted on casters 128 for purpose of portability.

[0077] In some embodiments, the processing chamber 119/219, cooling coils 104/204, and condenser 116/216 are covered in an insulating material 103/203. The insulating material 103/203 may maximize the rate of cooling in the chamber 119/219 and the condenser 116/216. This in turn reduces the energy consumed by the device 100/200 as a whole.

[0078] FIG. 2 is a bottom view of the microwave lyophilization device 100/200 according to some embodiments.

[0079] According to some embodiments, a power unit 118/218 supplies power to one or more microwave generators 109/209, configured to emit microwaves in a direction toward the chamber 119/219. In some embodiments, two microwave generators 109/209 positioned on either side of the motor 108/208 and directed towards the drum 102/202 are used. In some embodiments, two or more microwave generators 109/209 may be used. The microwave generators 109/209 may be positioned in a variety of configurations so as to create substantially uniform microwave coverage within the chamber 119/219.

[0080] According to some embodiments, the forward and reflected power, current, voltage, pressure, vacuum level, thermal infrared (IR) level, photoelectric level, and temperature sensors 105/205, weight sensors 114/214 and input panel 126/226 are connected to a controller device 125/225 operated by a processor 803. The controller device 125/225 may receive user input from input panel 126/226 to initialize and optimize lyophilization conditions as defined by a set of processing parameters. The controller device 125/225 may contain or be connected to databases of food lyophilization profiles and mathematical models of how food sublimates. These models will provide baseline inputs to the microwave lyophilization system 102/202. The controller device 125/225 may then actively adjust conditions inside the chamber 119/219 in order to achieve a desired product.

[0081] In some embodiments, the mathematic model(s) are a series of equations developed to provide insight into conditions and/or characteristics of the device which may not be monitored directly. The mathematical models may be based on physics and the relationships between the various properties of the process. The mathematical models may also be referred to as control models. For example, a control model may be represented by an equation that determines heat transfer into a frozen region of the food or item based on variables including forward power, reflected power, frequency of radio frequency (RF) signal, initial temperature, and area occupied by the food or material mass.

[0082] In some embodiments, one or more mathematic model(s) may be developed, integrated, and improved continuously over time, based on real-time or offline data from the microwave lyophilization device 100/200 during lyophilization cycles. [0083] In some embodiments, the controller device 125/225 is configured to set or adjust the processing parameters according to a lyophilization profile from a database of lyophilization profiles, the lyophilization profile being selected based on the user input or the sensor data.

[0084] The controller device 125/225 may determine refrigeration, pressure and microwave energy through the integration of sensors on the device. In some embodiments, the operation may be performed through relays, a custom circuit, and/ or a customized API.

[0085] In some embodiments, each lyophilization profile in the database comprises at least a drying profile, the drying profile comprising an initial set of processing parameters. The lyophilization profile may include other data such as initial moisture level and a density level, which may be initially defined based on a type or material of the item to be freeze dried. For example, each food or material may have an initial moisture level and a density level that may be obtained from available resources (e.g. United States Department of Agriculture). Once an initial moisture level, a density level and a drying profile have been defined as part of a lyophilization profile stored in the database, the controller 125/225 may, in some embodiments, update the lyophilization profile based on real-time or offline data as obtained from operating the device 100/200.

[0086] For example, the controller 125/225 may receive additional data obtained from sensors 105, 114 during the lyophilization process of food and items by the device, and update the lyophilization profile, in particular the drying profile, based on one or more mathematical model(s).

[0087] In some embodiments, the controller device 125/225 is configured to further set or adjust the processing parameters based on an updated set of processing parameters, wherein the updated set of processing parameters are derived from the initial set of processing parameters based on a mathematical model. The initial set of processing parameters may be obtained from a drying profile stored in a database.

Other Applications

[0088] The following section describes potential applications that may be practiced in regards to some embodiments. There may be other, different, modifications, etc. of the below potential applications, and it should be understood that the description is provided as non- limiting, illustrative examples only. For example, there may be additions, omissions, modifications, and other applications may be considered.

[0089] In some embodiments, the microwave lyophilization device 100/200 may be adapted for use in preserving a variety of products. This includes, but is not limited to food, pharmaceuticals, botanicals, and diagnostic kits. [0090] In some embodiments, the microwave lyophilization device 100/200 may be adapted for the purpose of restoring water damaged documents. Another example may include wood items such as historic or reclaimed boat hulls.

[0091] In some embodiments, the microwave lyophilization device 100/200 may be adapted for the purpose of preparing river-bottom sludge samples for hydrocarbon analysis. In some embodiments, the microwave lyophilization device 100/200 may be adapted for manufacturing ceramics used in the semiconductor industry. In some embodiments, the microwave lyophilization device 100/200 may be adapted for the preparation of synthetic skin. In some embodiments, the microwave lyophilization device 100/200 may be adapted for the manufacture of sulfur-coated vials.

OPERATION

[0092] In operation of some embodiments, the microwave lyophilization device 100/200 may undergo three phases, as depicted in FIG. 3. The microwave lyophilization device 100/200 implements initialization 400/450, during which the drum 102/202 is loaded and the conditions inside chamber 119/219 are established using the refrigeration unit 111/211 and the condenser 116/216. Then, the microwave lyophilization device 100/200 effects the lyophilization of the product and monitors the process 500/550. Finally, upon completion, the microwave lyophilization device 100/200 completes or shuts down the operations for that batch 600/650.

[0093] FIG. 4A depicts the processes involved in initialization 400 in greater detail, according to some embodiments. According to some embodiments, the drum may first be loaded 402. The food type may be selected from an input panel 404. The microwave lyophilization device 100/200 may energize the refrigeration unit and condenser 406. The condenser 116 and coils 104 may be cooled 408 until a predetermined temperature is achieved 410. In some embodiments, the pressure controlling process may follow the temperature controlling process. The vacuum pump 113 may be engaged 420 and the pressure may be decreased 422 until a predetermined pressure is achieved 424. The various sensors may be energized 430. The conditions inside the chamber 119 may be compared to database values in order to determine batch weight and cycle optimization 432. In some embodiments, the user input may also be compared to database values in order to determine batch weight and optimization settings. The microwave generators 109 may then be energized 434. Lastly, the drum motor 108/208 may be energized 436.

[0094] FIG. 4B illustrates a flowchart for another example initialization process 450 as performed by a controller device 125/225 in accordance with some embodiments. At step 451 , an optional drum may be loaded into processing chamber and an item may be received within the drum (or within the processing chamber if the drum is not present). At step 453, user input may be received from an input panel located or connected to the microwave device. The user input may include batch size, weight, item type and/or item material.

[0095] For example, a user may enter, via the input panel, that the item in the chamber is an apple weighing approximately 80 grams. In some embodiments, a user only needs to enter a batch size and type of the item (e.g. "two apples") and the input panel may automatically suggest a weight based on the batch size and type of items ("approximately 160 grams").

[0096] At step 455, one or more sensors may detect and determine if there is water in a condenser 116/216. Prior to starting a microwave cycle, water should not be present in the condenser. If water is detected, an error will be returned at step 461. If water is not detected, then the controller device can proceed to check load via reflected power sensor at step 457. Checking the load is the process where a microwave field is briefly activated, and where forward and reflected power are measured to determine whether something is in the chamber that can absorb microwave energy. If an improper or invalid load is detected, for example, if an item comprising metal were introduced in the chamber, for instance, there would be a weight reading, but all microwave power delivered in the chamber would be reflected back, which would damage the microwave system and electronic components. Therefore, if such an improper load is detected, an error will be returned. If a load is not present, an error will also be returned 461. If a proper load is present, then the controller device may proceed to receive a weight reading from a weight sensor and determine an accurate weight for the load at step 463. Next, based on user input as well as one or more sensor data, an initial set of operating or processing parameters may be obtained from a database at step 465. The initial set of processing parameters may relate to a minimum temperature, microwave energy delivered to the item within the chamber (e.g. w/gram/unit), a pressure and/or vacuum level over time, and a cycle time. These processing parameters may be part of a drying profile which is part of a lyophilization profile for the item selected by the controller device based on a type, material and/or weight of the item, as received from user input and from sensor data. One or more lyophilization profiles may be stored in a database as part of or connected to the controller device. [0097] At step 467, the refrigeration system is energized and ready to operate to decrease a temperature within the processing chamber. At step 469, temperature is decreased within the processing chamber. Heat transfer does not happen in a vacuum (whether heating or cooling), it is necessary to cool materials at atmospheric pressures prior to introducing a vacuum, and during the process it may be desirable to increase pressure periodically to cool down the material in the processing chamber (as there may be an excess of microwave energy, which can heat up the material in the chamber).

[0098] At step 471 , sensor data may be read to determine if the temperature within the processing chamber has reached a pre-determined level. If not, the refrigeration system keeps decreasing the temperature until the pre-determined level has been reached. If the pre-determined temperature level has been reached, vacuum system is energized at step 473 to decrease the pressure (i.e., increasing vacuum level) 475 until a pre-determined vacuum level has been reached 477. Once the pre-determined vacuum level is reached, drum rotation can be energized at step 479, followed by energizing a microwave generator at step 481.

[0099] In some embodiments, energizing the microwave for an amount of time before energizing the drum rotation will cause standing energy waves, which is undesirable as this may cause localized hot spots. Therefore, it would be undesirable to leave the microwave on for too long before energizing the drum rotation. Accordingly, generally the drum rotation is energized first prior to the microwave generator being energized. Energizing in this context may refer to turning the power on or activating a control so that a device or component (e.g. refrigeration system, microwave generator or drum) is ready to perform an action or emit some form of energy.

[00100] FIG. 5A depicts the processes comprising the lyophilization and monitoring 500 of the food product, according to some embodiments. The microwave power and pressure values may be set to optimized values 502 using the controller device 125, based on data inputted by the user, batch weight, and data from the food database, and continuous sensor data input. The drum rotation motor 108 may then engage the shaft 124, causing the drum 102 to rotate.

[00101] The microwave lyophilization device 100/200 may determine whether any abnormal conditions are detected 504 using sensors (i.e. weight sensor 114 and forward and reflected power, current, voltage, pressure, vacuum level, thermal infrared (IR) level, photoelectric level, and temperature sensors 105/205). If this is the case, the system decreases microwave output and/or increases pressure 506 according to control algorithm 744. The predetermined levels may then be reset 508.

[00102] If no abnormal conditions are detected, the lyophilization may continue until completion 510. The microwave generators may be shut down 512. The process may then either time out 514, or if it does not, the system may cycle the microwave off for a predetermined period 516.

[00103] Time out may, according to some embodiments, occur upon completion, as determined by reaching a predetermined moisture content and/or a predetermined operating time or weight differential. [00104] FIG. 5B illustrates a flowchart of another example lyophilization process 550 in accordance with some embodiments. At step 551 , microwave cycle is started by controller device through causing the microwave generator to emit microwave energy in accordance with one or more processing parameters in a drying profile. During this microwave cycle, the controller device, through one or more sensors, continuously check for abnormal conditions such as abnormal microwave conditions 553, abnormal pressure conditions 555, and abnormal temperature conditions 557. If no abnormal conditions are detected, the controller device checks to see if there is a time out at step 559. If a process time out is detected, a shutdown process 650 follows. If a process time out is not detected, the microwave cycle continues. [00105] If an abnormal microwave condition is detected, the controller device may direct the microwave generator to adjust the microwave energy within the processing chamber (e.g. decreasing microwave energy output at step 561.

[00106] One example of abnormal microwave conditions is too much reflected power, which may be detected by sensor 105. There are thresholds between outgoing power and reflected power measured by the controller, which may be material specific to what is being processed. For example, too much reflected power may be a signal that the materials being processed are heating up, meaning that it may be necessary to reduce microwave power and/or increase pressure, so that the refrigeration system has time to decrease material temperature or signal the end of a cycle. Power sensors can be read by the controller and compared to baseline values in a lyophilization profile for the item. Spikes and dips in reflected power outside of a predetermined hysteresis with unknown causes may trigger safe failure modes, reducing microwave power and vacuum to try to diagnose the source of the abnormality. Once power has been reduced the system will reattempt to process the item but if the abnormal condition(s) remain, microwave and vacuum power may be removed and temperature may be lowered until an operator can inspect the device.

[00107] If an abnormal pressure condition is detected, the controller device may direct the vacuum system to adjust the pressure level within the processing chamber (e.g. decreasing pressure level) at step 563. For example, if seals are malfunctioning, or that the cycle dictates that low pressure should be achieved but is not being attained by the vacuum pump, the controller will monitor the pressure sensors for these conditions and reduce microwave power (a default action to avoid overheating items or materials being processed) and execute a safe fail similar to abnormal microwave conditions should the abnormality persist.

[00108] If an abnormal temperature condition is detected, the controller device may de- energize the microwave generator at step 565. Abnormal temperatures may occur from sensor readings for chamber temperature or readings from thermal IR sensors measuring processed material temperatures. The controller may have different thresholds depending on the item or materials being processed. As with other abnormal conditions, the default mode is to reduce microwave energy delivered in the chamber. If the abnormal conditions are not resolved by this action, pressure may be increased, and if the abnormality still persists, the default safe fail is to keep the materials as cold as possible so as not to 'spoil' the materials.

[00109] If all of the abnormal conditions are resolved 567, the system restarts the microwave cycle. Otherwise, if any one of the abnormal conditions is persistent, the controller device will maintain a low temperature and return an error at 569. In some embodiments, the controller device will enter a safe fail mode to keep the materials as cold as possible so as not to 'spoil' the materials.

[00110] FIG. 6A depicts the completion or shut down phase 600 of the process according to some embodiments. First, the drum rotation motor may be de-energized 602. Next, the sensors may be de-energized 604. The cycle may then be terminated 606. The vacuum pump may then be disengaged 608. The chamber 119/219 may be re-pressurized 610. The refrigeration unit 111/211 may then be de-energized 612. The chamber 119/219 can then be opened 614. The drum 102/202 may be removed from the chamber 616. Finally, the lyophilized food may then be removed from the drum 618. In some embodiments, the condenser 116 can be optionally defrosted using heating wire 117 and then drained.

[0011 1] FIG. 6B depicts another example shut down process 650. First, the microwave generator may be de-energized 651. Next, the drum rotation may be de-energized 653. Next, the refrigeration system may be de-energized 655. Next, the vacuum valve may be released 657 and the chamber re-pressurized. The chamber 119/219 can then be opened 659. The drum 102/202 may be removed from the chamber 661. Finally, the lyophilized item may then be removed from the drum 663. In some embodiments, a defrost cycle may be performed 665 and the shutdown is the completed 667. [00112] In some embodiments, the microwave generator, drum rotation, and the refrigeration system may be de-energized or shut down almost simultaneously or concurrently, as long as hot spots are not generated by standing microwaves.

[00113] FIG. 7 depicts a high level schematic diagram of an example microwave lyophilization device or system 700 according to some embodiments. Sensor data unit 702, comprising weight sensor unit 704, pressure sensor unit 706, temperature sensor unit 708, photodetector unit 710, and reflected power sensor unit 712, may receive and process sensor inputs provided by sensors 105, 114 of the device 100/200, and then provide the processed input to controller unit 744. Sensor data unit 702 may comprise other sensor units such as forward power sensor, thermal IR sensor, current sensor, voltage sensor, humidity level sensor (not shown in FIG. 7), and so on.

[00114] In some embodiments, corona discharge is measured by photodetectors 710. In some embodiments, the reflected power sensors 712 measure the strength of the microwave energy field.

[00115] In some embodiments, the sensors, including but not limited to weight sensors 704, pressure sensors 706, temperature sensors 708, photodetectors 710, and reflected power sensors 712, are shielded from the path of the microwaves, which may otherwise damage them. As a direct consequence of the foregoing, any sensors placed within the chamber 119 must be able to operate in the presence microwave fields or otherwise shielded. [00116] According to some embodiments, a database of microwave lyophilization profiles 720 comprising, but not limited to, initial moisture 732, density 734, and a drying profile 736, may further provide inputs to the controller unit 744. Each lyophilization profile may include initial moisture 732, density 734, and a drying profile 736 based on a type, a batch size, and/or a material of the item as obtained from user input or as determined by one or more sensors. For example, if a user enters that the item for lyophilization is an apple weighing approximately 100 grams, the controller unit 744 may determine, based on the lyophilization profile for an apple, that an initial moisture level 732 may be 80%, a density 734 may be 0.7 grams/cm 3 , and a drying profile 736 may include processing parameters such as vacuum pressure of 1 Pa, microwave power density of 7.7 W, a cycle time of 1 hour, at a temperature of 0 Celsius degrees. If the item for lyophilization contains two apples, or an apple that is twice the weight of an average apple, then the controller unit 744 may determine that the processing parameters may change based on the batch size or weight. For instance, the cycle time may increase to 2 hours, and/ or the microwave power density (which is a form of microwave energy) may increase to 9 W, in order to accommodate the larger batch size or weight. The processing parameters may be further updated or stored by controller unit 744.

[00117] Controller unit 744 may be implemented based on one or more control algorithms and configured to control: refrigeration system via a refrigeration unit 746, vacuum pump or valve via a pressure unit 748, and a microwave generator via microwave energy unit 750. Controller unit 744 may be configured to control these units 746, 748, 750 based on various input data such as user input data from user input unit 714, sensor data from sensor data unit 702, and lyophilization profile data 732, 734, 736 from database 720.

[00118] Controller unit 744 may, in some embodiments, be configured to receive one or more updated operating or processing parameters based on a mathematical or control model 742. The control model may be further optimized by an optimization unit 760. The control model 742 may a heat transfer into a frozen region of the item based on variables including forward power, reflected power, frequency of radio frequency (RF) signal, an initial temperature, and an area occupied by the item.

[00119] The controller unit 744 may receive user input from input panel 126/226 to initialize and optimize lyophilization conditions as defined by a set of processing parameters. The controller unit 744 may be connected to databases 720 of lyophilization profiles and mathematical models 742 of how food sublimates. These models may provide baseline inputs to the microwave lyophilization system 102/202. The controller unit 744 may then actively adjust conditions inside the chamber 119/219 in order to achieve a desired environment for lyophilization. The mathematical models may also be referred to as control models.

[00120] In some embodiments, the mathematic model(s) are a series of equations developed to provide insight into conditions and/or characteristics of the device which may not be monitored directly. Items such as heat transfer into a frozen region of the food or item, determined by an equation whose variables include forward power, reflected power, frequency of radio frequency (RF) signal, initial temperature, and area occupied by the food or material mass. The mathematical models may be based on physics and the relationships between the various properties of the process.

[00121] In some embodiments, one or more mathematic model(s) may be developed, integrated, and improved continuously over time, based on real-time or offline data from the microwave lyophilization device 100/200 during lyophilization cycles, as optimized by controller unit 744 based on one or more optimization unit 760.

[00122] In some embodiments, the controller unit 744 is configured to set or adjust the processing parameters according to a lyophilization profile from a database 720 of lyophilization profiles, the lyophilization profile being selected based on the user input or the sensor data.

[00123] The databases 720 in conjunction with data from the sensor data unit 702 may enable an easy to user operating interface. This may be accomplished by, for example, restricting the ability of an operator to override the default profiles, thereby reducing operator error. Further, it may reduce the necessity of researching pressure and temperature profiles for food items, saving considerable operator time and effort.

[00124] In some embodiments, the controller unit 744 then provides outputs to various actuators of the system via refrigeration unit 746, pressure unit 748, and microwave energy unit 750. These units connect to and may send electronic signal representing commands to various components of microwave lyophilization device 100/200 in order to adjust parameters for lyophilization various items. [00125] Referring now to FIG. 8, which shows a schematic block diagram illustrating an example system 800 controlling a microwave lyophilization device 100/200 according to one embodiment. In this example, controller device 125 may be connected to a microwave lyophilization device 100/200 through network 850. Optional database 830 storing additional data such as optimization algorithms and/or one or more mathematical models 742 may be connected to controller device 125 via network 850 as well.

[00126] In some embodiments, controller device 125 may be part of microwave lyophilization device 100. In other embodiments, controller device 125 may be physically located external to microwave lyophilization device 100 and configured to receive and transmit electronic signals to lyophilization device 100. Controller device 125 and lyophilization device 100 may transit the electronic signals wirelessly over a network 850.

[00127] A processing device 803 can execute instructions in memory 810 to configure a number of functional units or blocks as described above with respect to FIG. 7. For example, memory 810 may store executable instructions regarding one or more of: user input unit 714, mathematical model 742, optimization unit 760, sensor data unit 702, controller unit 760, refrigeration unit 746, pressure unit 748, and a microwave energy unit 750.

[00128] In some embodiments, a processing device 803 can be, for example, any type of general-purpose microprocessor or microcontroller, a digital signal processing (DSP) processor, an integrated circuit, a field programmable gate array (FPGA), a reconfigurable processor, or any combination thereof.

[00129] Controller device 125 may be, in some embodiments, executed by the processor 803 to retrieve, update or add one or more mathematical models stored in database 830 over network 850.

[00130] Memory 810 may include a suitable combination of any type of computer memory that is located either internally or externally such as, for example, random-access memory (RAM), read-only memory (ROM), compact disc read-only memory (CDROM), electro-optical memory, magneto-optical memory, erasable programmable read-only memory (EPROM), and electrically-erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM), Ferroelectric RAM (FRAM) or the like. Storage devices 807 may include memory 810, databases 720, and persistent storage 820. [00131] Each I/O unit 801 enables controller device 125 to interconnect with one or more input devices, such as a keyboard, mouse, camera, touch screen and a microphone, or with one or more output devices such as a display screen and a speaker.

[00132] Each communication interface 805 enables controller device 125 to communicate with other components (e.g. data sources 830) over network 850, to exchange data with other components, to access and connect to network resources, to serve applications, and perform other computing applications by connecting to a network (or multiple networks) capable of carrying data including the Internet, Ethernet, plain old telephone service (POTS) line, public switch telephone network (PSTN), integrated services digital network (ISDN), digital subscriber line (DSL), coaxial cable, fiber optics, satellite, mobile, wireless (e.g. Wi-Fi, WiMAX), SS7 signaling network, fixed line, local area network, wide area network, and others, including any combination of these.

[00133] Storage devices 807 may be configured to store information associated with controller device 125, such as instructions, sensor data, rules associated with one or more mathematical models, and etc. Storage device 807 and/or persistent storage 820 may be provided using various types of storage technologies, such as solid state drives, hard disk drives, flash memory, and may be stored in various formats, such as relational databases, non-relational databases, flat files, spreadsheets, extended markup files, etc.

[00134] It will be appreciated that numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the exemplary embodiments described herein. However, it will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art that the embodiments described herein may be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, well-known methods, procedures and components have not been described in detail so as not to obscure the embodiments described herein. Furthermore, this description is not to be considered as limiting the scope of the embodiments described herein in any way, but rather as merely describing implementation of the various example embodiments described herein.

[00135] The embodiments of the devices, systems and methods described herein may be implemented in a combination of both hardware and software. These embodiments may be implemented on programmable computers, each computer including at least one processor, a data storage system (including volatile memory or non-volatile memory or other data storage elements or a combination thereof), and at least one communication interface. For example, the programmable computers may be a server, network appliance, set-top box, embedded device, computer expansion module, personal computer, laptop, personal data assistant, cloud computing system or mobile device. A cloud computing system is operable to deliver computing service through shared resources, software and data over a network. Program code is applied to input data to perform the functions described herein and to generate output information. The output information is applied to one or more output devices to generate a discernible effect. In some embodiments, the communication interface may be a network communication interface. In embodiments in which elements are combined, the communication interface may be a software communication interface, such as those for inter- process communication. In still other embodiments, there may be a combination of communication interfaces.

[00136] Program code is applied to input data to perform the functions described herein and to generate output information. The output information is applied to one or more output devices. In some embodiments, the communication interface may be a network communication interface. In embodiments in which elements may be combined, the communication interface may be a software communication interface, such as those for interprocess communication. In still other embodiments, there may be a combination of communication interfaces implemented as hardware, software, and combination thereof.

[00137] Each program may be implemented in a high level procedural or object oriented programming or scripting language, or both, to communicate with a computer system. However, alternatively the programs may be implemented in assembly or machine language, if desired. In any case, the language may be a compiled or interpreted language. Each such computer program may be stored on a storage media or a device (e.g. ROM or magnetic diskette), readable by a general or special purpose programmable computer, for configuring and operating the computer when the storage media or device is read by the computer to perform the procedures described herein. Embodiments of the system may also be considered to be implemented as a non-transitory computer-readable storage medium, configured with a computer program, where the storage medium so configured causes a computer to operate in a specific and predefined manner to perform the functions described herein. [00138] Furthermore, the system, processes and methods of the described embodiments are capable of being distributed in a computer program product including a physical non- transitory computer readable medium that bears computer usable instructions for one or more processors. The medium may be provided in various forms, including one or more diskettes, compact disks, tapes, chips, magnetic and electronic storage media, and the like. The computer useable instructions may also be in various forms, including compiled and non-compiled code.

[00139] Throughout the foregoing discussion, numerous references will be made regarding servers, services, interfaces, portals, platforms, or other systems formed from computing devices. It should be appreciated that the use of such terms is deemed to represent one or more computing devices having at least one processor configured to execute software instructions stored on a computer readable tangible, non-transitory medium. For example, a server can include one or more computers operating as a web server, database server, or other type of computer server in a manner to fulfill described roles, responsibilities, or functions.

[00140] The technical solution of embodiments may be in the form of a software product. The software product may be stored in a non-volatile or non-transitory storage medium, which can be a compact disk read-only memory (CD-ROM), a USB flash disk, or a removable hard disk. The software product includes a number of instructions that enable a computer device (personal computer, server, or network device) to execute the methods provided by the embodiments.

[00141] The embodiments described herein are implemented by physical computer hardware, including computing devices, servers, receivers, transmitters, processors, memory, displays, and networks. The embodiments described herein provide useful physical machines and particularly configured computer hardware arrangements.

[00142] The present disclosure may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from its spirit or essential characteristics. The described embodiments are to be considered in all respects only as illustrative and not restrictive.

[00143] As will be apparent to those skilled in the art in light of the foregoing disclosure, many alterations and modifications are possible to the methods and systems described herein. While a number of exemplary aspects and embodiments have been discussed above, those of skill in the art will recognize certain modifications, permutations, additions and sub-combinations thereof. It is therefore intended that the following appended claims and claims hereafter introduced are interpreted to include all such modifications, permutations, additions and sub-combinations as may reasonably be inferred by one skilled in the art. The scope of the claims should not be limited by the embodiments set forth in the examples, but should be given the broadest interpretation consistent with the foregoing disclosure.